Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has talked down Lewis Hamilton's chances of battling back to mount a title challenge in 2022.
The 37-year-old took a vow of silence after missing out on an unprecedented eighth world championship last season, prompting speculation he was going to retire from the sport. However, in February, he confirmed he would be competing for the 'Silver Arrows' and didn't want the events in Abu Dhabi to define his career.
However, in a brand new era of technical regulations in F1, things haven't started well for Hamilton or his team. They were off the pace in pre-season testing, and then struggled in the season opener in Bahrain.
Hamilton did manage a fortuitous third place after the late retirements to Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, but then endured a torrid time a week later in Saudi Arabia. Hamilton was eliminated in Q1 in Jeddah, and started the Grand Prix in 15th place.
He would eventually finish 10th, worth just a single point, and followed that up with fifth place at Sunday's Australian Grand Prix. It leaves him fifth in the standings on 28 points, already 43 points off leader Charles Leclerc.
And Team CEO Wolff has rated the F1 icon's chances of breaching the gap by the end of year as less than 50%: "If we look at it from a mathematical standpoint and probability, I would probably say that the odds are eight-to-two but this is motor racing and anything can happen," he told GP Fans.
"Teams can DNF and if we unlock the potential of the car then we can arrive back in the game. So as a motor racer, I would say it is probably 40-60. As a mathematician, I would say the odds are worse against us."
The Austrian has labelled the displays the team displays so far as "unacceptable," and admits the fight is now on to ensure the problems don't become long term: "I see an upbeat Lewis when we start the day and then a downbeat Lewis when the session has gone worse than expected," he added.
"I have had to stop thinking in terms of sessions and weekends, but about years. This needs to be a blip and not a long-term downward spiral. It will be a blip, and that is why we need to get it right now – not on the stopwatch, but mentally."
Thus far, Hamilton has been out-performed by new team-mate George Russell, who is second in the standings on 37 points. The youngster has also qualified ahead of the seven-time champion in two consecutive races.
It now remains to be seen if the constructors' champions can address their problems ahead of the next race in Emilia Romagna on April 24. Hamilton won the first race held there in 2020, but it was Verstappen who prevailed last season.
Following that event in Imola, drivers head to American for the inaugural Miami Grand Prix. That takes place on May 6.
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